You know that sense of dread you get when something is so hyped up over the course of its development that you start to think, “Man, this is probably gonna flop. There’s no way it’s gonna be this good.” That’s how I started to feel after binge watching trailers for this game on YouTube before it was released. I need a good slap in the face for not immediately dispelling the thought because Batman: Arkham Knight is everything it was promised to be: crazy fucking awesome!
The latest in the Arkham Franchise takes little time in getting started, save a quick opening sequence and cutscene. The game doesn’t bother with an abundance of tutorials at the start, and considering how this is the last game in a trilogy (Four if you count Arkham Origins. I don’t.), it’d be short sighted to assume no one played the other games. The only aspects it spends time explaining are the ones unique to this entry, mainly the Batmobile.
From Asylum to City and now onto Knight, everything just keeps getting bigger and better in this franchise; from the open world to the gameplay itself. Combat has become even deeper with new enemy types and new takedown abilities which force you to strategize just how to take on all the, sometimes 20+, thugs you’re fighting. Upgrading gadgets and abilities throughout the game yields even more ways not only to beat someone senseless mid-combat but also to dive in with a crazy opening salvo to kick it off. My personal favorite being the bat-claw.
The predator sequences offer a more methodical approach to clearing a room, and if you’re familiar with the mechanics of the previous entries, you’ll feel right at home choking guys out from the shadows. As with the combat sequences, predator mode features new enemies and new gadgets to sink your teeth into, including a 3-5 person fear takedown which I am unhealthily addicted to using.
But that stuff is old news, right? It’s been a staple since 2009 and sure as hell isn’t worth a whole new game over. That’s where the Batmobile comes in. Well, charges in. With a cannon. It definitely draws most of its inspiration from the Chris Nolan version, but this one has the most firepower by far. Like Combat and Predator Modes for Batman himself, the car has a standard Driving Mode and a Battle Mode where the Vulcan Gun and 60mm Cannon come out to do some serious destruction.
With an open world five times bigger than Arkham City, the Batmobile is the best way to navigate between buildings and speed through the over-sized sewer tunnels. And I just need to say, this world is huge but what’s more impressive is how absolutely gorgeous Rocksteady was able to make it. This is next gen hardware at its finest, packing every little detail into Batman’s new suit and giving us some of the most realistic facial animations on any game to date while still rendering every enemy and environment detail beautifully.
Alright let’s get to the meat of the whole package; the story mode! This caps off everything that started almost 6 years ago in Arkham Asylum, and boy it’s a game changer. The great thing about this franchise is that they aren’t tied up in any continuity but their own, giving the writers almost total freedom in the story they want to tell. My favorite stories, especially in comics, are those that try to do something different and crazy while staying true to the core of the character. That’s exactly what Arkham Knight does.
It all kicks of with Scarecrow threatening to detonate a chemical weapon in Gotham, causing panic and a mass evacuation. From the start, Batman’s mission is to stop Scarecrow by any means necessary. He does get damn brutal, breaking bones and threatening to run over a man’s head with the tank he calls a car.
Fear is a theme explored pretty often in the Batman Mythos, but it’s really put under the microscope here. Both how Batman uses fear to fuel his legend and what he fears himself; that his efforts will amount to nothing, failing, or losing those closest to him and even giving into the fear, becoming like those he fights; becoming like the Joker. These fears drive Batman throughout the narrative forcing him to make hard and impossible decisions to combat Scarecrow. It’s one of the best Batman stories told in recent years, right up there with Scott Snyder’s current run in the comics and The Dark Knight movie.
I cannot give enough props to the voice cast for delivering big scenes with subtlety and poignancy that big Hollywood actors should envy. Martin Jarvis especially hits it out of the park as Alfred, radiating dry humor one moment then making me tear up the next. As for Batman if this is Kevin Conroy’s last outing as the caped crusader, it’s more than a worthy send-off.
I have very few complaints with this beautiful game, but chief among them is the namesake villain, the Arkham Knight. His identity is a central mystery in the story and something Batman has a hell of a time figuring out. Unfortunately, the reveal is neither shocking nor very satisfying. If you’re even remotely familiar with the Batman lore, you already know his identity. And if you’re not, you’ll figure it out a little less than halfway through the game. Don’t get me wrong, it’s well told and a nice spin on a fan favorite story, but it’s hard not to be a little let down.
Are you a fan of Batman? Go buy this game. Are you a fan of Gaming? Go buy this game. Are you a fan of crazy stories twisting what you thought was real and making you guess what will happen next? Go. Buy. This. Game. Not only is it a worthy successor to two of the most popular games in the last few years but it’s a kick ass Batman tale, one not to be missed by Bat-fans both Hardcore and Casual. I wait with bated breath for whatever Rocksteady is next to put out.